Tuesdays with Morrie

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Love, Family, and Community Theme Analysis

Themes and Colors
Teaching and Learning Theme Icon
Death Theme Icon
Culture and Religion Theme Icon
Movement and Change Theme Icon
Love, Family, and Community Theme Icon
LitCharts assigns a color and icon to each theme in Tuesdays with Morrie, which you can use to track the themes throughout the work.
Love, Family, and Community Theme Icon

"Love each other or perish" is Morrie's favorite line by poet W. H. Auden, and it is the guiding philosophy of Morrie's life. He believes there is nothing as important as relationships with friends, family, and community. The text provides some nuances as to how that love is expressed by questioning if love is still valid and useful if it's harder to see. Watching Morrie's relationships evolve throughout his life asks the reader to consider the degree of validity for those statements.

Morrie comes back again and again to the importance of community and family, especially in light of his deteriorating health. Morrie's self-created culture is, at its heart, about prioritizing people and relationships over accumulating material things. He makes a point to receive as many visitors as possible and reply to much of the mail he gets following the Nightline interview. This interaction with his greater community is vitally important to Morrie, as he uses his community to spread what he's learned about life and death. By interacting with his community in this way, he never has to truly give up teaching.

Family is held up as being immensely important, even more so than platonic friends. The reader is asked to consider the difference between the way that Morrie's family functions and the way that Mitch's family functions. Morrie's immediate family is very close; his sons and his wife, Charlotte, are around to support him through his illness. Morrie believes deeply in familial responsibility, saying that his family can't choose not to support him through his illness like a friend could. Because of this, he places a great degree of emphasis on the decisions to marry and have children when Mitch brings up the topic. On the other hand, Mitch's brother, Peter, moved to Spain and is battling cancer mostly estranged from Mitch and the rest of their family. The text does present a hopeful tone for repairing relationships with family, however. After Morrie's death, Mitch is finally able to reach out successfully to Peter with a message of love and compassion, and Peter is responsive to that.

Love is a central tenet of Morrie's philosophy, and as the book follows the vignettes through his early life, it shows both how he was highly motivated by a desire to love and be loved, and how that desire is universal. When Morrie was very young, his affectionate mother dies and he is left longing for love and affection from his colder and more reserved father, Charlie. He finally receives parental affection from Eva, his stepmother. Later in life, when he creates his own family with Charlotte and has two sons, he vows to give them the love that he never got from his own father. In this way, love is the ultimate motivator for Morrie's actions throughout the scope of the book as well as throughout his life. Mitch as well is motivated by love. His relationship with Morrie while at school flourishes in part because Morrie meets Mitch where he is in life, responding to Mitch's desire to be heard and supported in his dreams and desires.

In the end, it is Mitch's love and respect for Morrie that brings about the positive changes in Mitch's life, and which motivates Mitch to capture and explain the lessons he has learned from Morrie in Tuesdays with Morrie. Morrie's love and support allows Mitch to more fully embrace his life, his goals, and his ability to love and be open and vulnerable to those whom he loves. Throughout the text, Mitch notes that Morrie has an unshakable belief that Mitch is still the kind and sensitive person he was when he was in school, and the love and community he experiences with Morrie allows him to return in some form to that person. The book seeks also to do that for the reader, giving readers the tools to be loving and compassionate, and in so doing to become a more fulfilled individual.

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Love, Family, and Community Quotes in Tuesdays with Morrie

Below you will find the important quotes in Tuesdays with Morrie related to the theme of Love, Family, and Community.
The Syllabus Quotes

Morrie cried and laughed with them. And all the heartfelt things we never get to say to those we love, Morrie said that day. His "living funeral" was a rousing success.

Related Characters: Mitch Albom (speaker), Morrie Schwartz, Charlotte
Page Number: 13
Explanation and Analysis:

After attending the funeral of a fellow professor that left him feeling depressed, Morrie organized what he calls a living funeral. While a funeral is also held after his death, holding a funeral before his death allows him to spend time with friends and family and hear the things that are said at funerals, but that the dead never get to hear.

Morrie's personal culture is extremely focused on relationships, building community, and telling loved ones that they're loved and valued. He consistently remarks that he's lucky that he gets so much time to say goodbye, and this event acts as a formal chance for him to do so. While funerals are often community events, the concept of a living funeral allows the event to be one of community building for the dying as well as the living, thereby linking life and death and the living to the dead.

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The Student Quotes

After the funeral, my life changed. I felt as if time were suddenly precious, water going down an open drain, and I could not move quickly enough.

Related Characters: Mitch Albom (speaker)
Page Number: 15
Explanation and Analysis:

At this point, Mitch's favorite uncle has just died a painful death from pancreatic cancer. This is the first instance in the book where we see death as a catalyst for change. After experiencing his uncle's death, Mitch begins to quickly move away from the goal of the idealistic young musician he dreamed of being, and which Morrie encouraged him to pursue. The death of his uncle leads Mitch to move very quickly in a completely different direction, towards a life of acquiring material goods. With this transformation, the idea of movement for movement's sake is introduced. This idea will later be cast as a negative when compared to Morrie's way of living, and as it becomes apparent that Mitch feels little joy moving simply for the sake of moving.

Instead, I buried myself in accomplishments, because with accomplishments, I believed I could control things, I could squeeze in every last piece of happiness before I got sick and died, like my uncle before me, which I figured was my natural fate.

Related Characters: Mitch Albom (speaker), Janine
Page Number: 17
Explanation and Analysis:

Instead of starting a family with Janine, Mitch focuses on work in order to feel in control. Mitch never fully fleshes out why he feels that he will follow in his uncle's footsteps, but Mitch is driven through life by the idea that he too is going to die a horrible death. Rather than look for fulfillment in community or relationships, as Morrie will later suggest he do, Mitch tries to find meaning in his life through accomplishments and accumulating material goods. This early description of Mitch's character gives the reader a baseline for which to then judge Mitch's progress as he transforms through his visits with Morrie.

Seeing Mitch as someone who is successful by the standards of modern culture provides a counterpoint for Morrie's ideas of personal culture. Mitch is a living, breathing example of the kind of “success” that Morrie not only rails against, but believes is not true success. Mitch ultimately supports Morrie's belief, as he shares with the reader on several occasions that he felt unfulfilled despite having so much.

The Audiovisual Quotes

Do you prefer Mitch? Or is Mitchell better?

Related Characters: Morrie Schwartz (speaker), Mitch Albom
Page Number: 24
Explanation and Analysis:

Mitch is in his first class with Morrie in 1976, and Morrie is calling attendance. By asking Mitch what he prefers to be called, Morrie makes several things clear. First, it's obvious that Morrie sees his students as individuals with individual nicknames and preferences, which Mitch says he's never experienced before. This is one of the reasons that Morrie is a good teacher, as he cares not just about the transfer of information, but puts more emphasis on building trust and a relationship with each student. In this way, this question is also a prime example of Morrie's desire to pay attention to people and make them feel like they matter. By doing this, Morrie continues to build community and strong relationships.

The First Tuesday Quotes

I knew there was plenty of food at the house, but I wanted to contribute something. I was so powerless to help Morrie otherwise. And I remembered his fondness for eating.

Related Characters: Mitch Albom (speaker), Morrie Schwartz
Related Symbols: Food
Page Number: 48
Explanation and Analysis:

Mitch has just arrived at Morrie's house bearing bags of deli food. Throughout the text, food and eating are developed first and foremost as a way in which Morrie builds community. Mitch remembers when he and Morrie would eat together in the Brandeis dining hall, and starts bringing food as an offering for the Tuesday visits.

Mitch recognizes the importance of food and eating to Morrie's personal culture. Eating for Morrie is not just a way to nourish his body; it's a way to build relationships and foster community. By bringing food, Mitch is essentially providing an easy way for him to connect with Morrie. The meal that will take place now that food has been procured will help Mitch and Morrie strengthen their relationship as Morrie teaches and Mitch begins to consider Morrie's lessons.

Food and the ensuing meal also allow the reader to see firsthand Morrie's declining mobility. Morrie's mobility is consistently discussed in terms of how and what he's eating, and this meal is no exception.

The Second Tuesday Quotes

Holding him like that moved me in a way I cannot describe, except to say I felt the seeds of death inside his shriveling frame, and as I laid him in his chair, adjusting his head on the pillows, I had the coldest realization that our time was running out.
And I had to do something.

Related Characters: Mitch Albom (speaker), Morrie Schwartz
Page Number: 59
Explanation and Analysis:

Mitch has this chilling realization when he offers to lift Morrie from his wheelchair into his armchair in his office. This is the second instance for Mitch of death acting as a catalyst for change. Prior to this moment, it's unclear whether Mitch is going to continue visiting Morrie or not, and it's also unclear whether Mitch is going to take any of Morrie's wisdom and apply it to his life. This realization is what truly begins Mitch's pivot from hardened, materialistic, and superficial to someone who embodies Morrie's teachings.

Though this is the second time of death creating a change in Mitch, the change provoked this time around is much slower than the one that followed the death of his uncle. The change brought about by Morrie's death leads Mitch to movement that is purposeful and driven by love, rather than his previous movement for movement's sake that was driven by fear.

The Fifth Tuesday Quotes

“If you don't have the support and love and caring and concern that you get from a family, you don't have much at all. Love is so supremely important. As our great poet Auden said, 'Love each other or perish.'”

Related Characters: Morrie Schwartz (speaker), Mitch Albom, Charlotte, Rob, Jon
Page Number: 91
Explanation and Analysis:

This Tuesday, Mitch and Morrie are discussing the importance of family. Morrie is describing his feelings about his own family and how important they are to him, especially now that his health is in decline. Morrie is ardent that family is the most important thing someone can have in life. He places a great deal of weight on the idea of familial responsibility. This idea of responsibility plays out in Morrie's immediate family, as Morrie often speaks very highly of the care he receives from Charlotte. Notably, he never mentions the quality of care he receives from home care workers like Connie, indicating that he values the emotional support and care he receives from his family over the physical duties performed by Connie and his various physical therapists.

Morrie's personal philosophy focuses on ideas of love and the nurturing of close emotional relationships as the basis for a happy life. This quote by the poet W.H. Auden shows that Morrie very much equates the lack of such relationships, and the lack of love, with death and despair.

Additionally, the repetition of the Auden quote further stresses its importance to understanding Morrie and his philosophy. Through repetition, it's made obvious to the reader that it's an important phrase without being overtly heavy handed.

The Sixth Tuesday Quotes

Charlotte glanced again at my food and I felt suddenly ashamed. All these reminders of things Morrie would never enjoy.

Related Characters: Mitch Albom (speaker), Morrie Schwartz, Charlotte
Related Symbols: Food
Page Number: 102
Explanation and Analysis:

Mitch has been bringing food from Morrie's favorite deli for the last several weeks, but on this week Charlotte was home when Mitch arrived. She shared with Mitch that most of the food he's brought is now too difficult for Morrie to eat.

Food is very important to Morrie, although the act of eating itself is possibly even more important than the food itself. Morrie uses the act of eating with people as a way to build community. Mitch mentions fond memories of eating with Morrie in the Brandeis dining hall, which is one of the ways in which the two developed their relationship while Mitch was a student. By bringing food for Morrie each week, Mitch was attempting to recreate that sense of happiness and connection he felt in college.

At this point, however, we see how far the disease has progressed. Morrie can no longer eat the food because chewing is difficult and choking is a real possibility. Thus, this moment is one in which food shifts from being a positive symbol of friendship to a more tragic one, as a reminder of death.

The Professor, Part Two Quotes

Morrie observed that most of the patients there had been rejected and ignored in their lives, made to feel that they didn't exist. They also missed compassion—something the staff ran out of quickly. And many of these patients were well-off, from rich families, so their wealth did not buy them happiness or contentment.

Related Characters: Mitch Albom (speaker), Morrie Schwartz
Page Number: 110
Explanation and Analysis:

Morrie's first job after finishing his Ph.D. was conducting research in a mental institution outside of Washington, DC. His job was to observe the patients and their treatments. This is the lesson that Morrie takes away from conducting research in a mental hospital, and it will go on to inform how he structures his personal culture. Most of Morrie's concerns, here as well as later in life, are about how we treat others and what sort of an effect our actions have on them. Morrie will later champion the power of simply paying attention and giving someone your full attention, and this point can be seen as the moment in his life when he fully understands the positive effect of paying attention and the profoundly negative effect of not.

Here we also see the seeds of Morrie's later disdain for modern culture through the mention of wealth not being a good measure for happiness. He will go on to link modern culture to the accumulation of wealth and material goods, which he consistently criticizes. The underlying message that Morrie leaves the hospital with is that love and compassion do the most good in the world, as they make people feel seen, heard, and cared for in a way that wealth cannot.

The Eighth Tuesday Quotes

When I give my time, when I can make someone smile after they were feeling sad, it's as close to healthy as I ever feel.

Related Characters: Morrie Schwartz (speaker), Mitch Albom
Page Number: 128
Explanation and Analysis:

The topic for this week's discussion is money, and Morrie here is stressing the importance of relationships rather than accumulating material goods near the end of Mitch's visit. With this statement, Morrie ties positive and fulfilling relationships directly to physical health. This supports his concept of personal culture, since so much of his personal culture is built on the idea of nurturing these relationships. By this point in the book, Morrie's body is no longer functioning or healthy. Note that while Morrie doesn't go so far as to say that he feels truly healthy when he's able to make someone smile, this statement makes a direct link between physical health and emotional happiness. This also is indicative of Morrie's high level of optimism in the face of his disease. Rather than wallow in self pity, he continues to give time and guidance to friends and family.

The Tenth Tuesday Quotes

As my wife's loving voice filled the room, a crescent smile appeared on his face. And while his body was stiff as a sandbag, you could almost see him dancing inside it.

Related Characters: Mitch Albom (speaker), Morrie Schwartz, Janine
Related Symbols: Dance
Page Number: 146
Explanation and Analysis:

Janine has accompanied Mitch to visit Morrie this week. She is a professional singer and usually declines to sing for people, but to Mitch's surprise, she sang for Morrie when he asked.

Mitch describes Morrie's reaction to hearing Janine sing in terms of dance, despite the fact that Morrie is no longer able to move much unassisted. This draws a connection between the physical act of dancing and what dancing means as a metaphor. Morrie never fully loses the joy of movement and dance; he remains capable of experiencing the same type of joy as he experiences music.

The fact that Mitch chooses to describe Morrie here in terms of dance also speaks to the importance of dance and music to Morrie's personal culture. Rather than simply describe the happiness he experiences in this moment, Morrie's happiness is described in relation to dance and movement. The idea of movement, then, is elevated and becomes an essential part of Morrie's conception of happiness and fulfillment.

The Eleventh Tuesday Quotes

“In the beginning of life, when we are infants, we need others to survive, right? And at the end of life, when you get like me, you need others to survive, right?”
His voice dropped to a whisper. “But here's the secret: in between, we need others as well.”

Related Characters: Morrie Schwartz (speaker), Mitch Albom
Page Number: 157
Explanation and Analysis:

Mitch and Morrie are discussing culture, and Morrie has just made the point that if people saw each other as individuals in need of love and care, the world wouldn't have so many problems.

As the book progresses, Morrie develops the idea of community to encompass not just one's own community of friends and family, but expands it further to include the world. Much of Morrie's philosophy centers on caring for others emotionally and physically. The book stresses strongly the need for emotional care as a child through the glimpses we get into Morrie's difficult childhood due to the death of his mother. It's inarguable that he needed more care as a child than he received. As an old man in the present, Morrie continually returns to the idea that he is entirely dependent on others for everything now that he's sick. However, he also tries to make it very clear to Mitch that even as a younger, healthy man, Mitch too is in need of others to be fulfilled. This statement is an explicit acknowledgement that community is not just for the very young and the very old, which further develops Morrie's concept of community as all-inclusive.

If I could have had another son, I would have liked it to be you.

Related Characters: Morrie Schwartz (speaker), Mitch Albom
Page Number: 168
Explanation and Analysis:

Morrie says this to Mitch as Mitch massages Morrie's feet. This week they're discussing regrets, and Morrie has just been discussing that while he mourns the short time he has left, he treasures the fact that he has enough time to make things right before he dies.

Throughout the text, the relationship between Mitch and Morrie is presented first as a close student/teacher relationship. As time progresses, however, their relationship develops to become more like that of a father and son. This happens both in the past in Mitch's college days, as well as in the present. Morrie's statement here is the point at which their relationship makes the final shift to familial, with this acknowledgement that Morrie considers their relationship to be such.

This shift additionally provides evidence of the importance that Morrie places on family over platonic relationships. As Morrie declines, he begins to cancel visits with other friends because he feels he cannot fully respond to them, being as tired as he is. However, although Mitch offers, Morrie refuses to cancel their Tuesday visits. Morrie's refusal to cancel is indicative of the shift of their relationship to that of a father and son, a shift which is finally spoken of and acknowledged in this moment.

The Thirteenth Tuesday Quotes

Then I'd go for a walk, in a garden with some trees, watch their colors, watch the birds, take in the nature that I haven't seen in so long now.
In the evening, we'd all go together to a restaurant with some great pasta, maybe some duck—I love duck—and then we'd dance the rest of the night. I'd dance with all the wonderful dance partners out there, until I was exhausted.

Related Characters: Morrie Schwartz (speaker), Mitch Albom
Related Symbols: Food, The Natural World and Morrie's Hibiscus, Dance
Page Number: 176
Explanation and Analysis:

Morrie is describing his perfect day for Mitch. The fact that what Morrie describes is so ordinary is indicative of the way Morrie lives his life and practices his personal culture, as Morrie doesn't choose to do something flashy or ostentatious. Instead, he wants to do the most normal of things—swimming, spending time with friends, eating, and dancing. While Morrie's personal culture is focused primarily on finding joy in simple things and relationships, the fact that he would choose to spend his last perfect day in this way points to just how invested he is in this way of living.

This speech also is where we see all three positive symbols (dance, eating, and nature) combine, and see how they play into Morrie's culture. Nature is a way to move, slowly and with the purpose of admiring the beauty of the world. Eating is a way to build community and experience joy, as is dancing.

The Fourteenth Tuesday Quotes

I blinked back the tears, and he smacked his lips together and raised his eyebrows at the sight of my face. I like to think it was a fleeting moment of satisfaction for my dear old professor: He had finally made me cry.

Related Characters: Mitch Albom (speaker), Morrie Schwartz
Page Number: 186
Explanation and Analysis:

Mitch is saying goodbye to Morrie on his final visit and has just kissed him for the final time. For the entirety of Mitch and Morrie's relationship, one of Morrie's goals has been to show Mitch that crying is okay. Mitch, as a character that works very hard to fit a persona and doesn't fully embrace Morrie's wisdom regarding emotion, resists crying until this point.

Mitch's willingness to cry here shows just how far his character has developed. Through the fourteen weeks he's spent visiting with Morrie, Morrie has been prepping him both to deal with his death and to exhibit emotion in a healthy way. Morrie cries openly whenever he's moved to do so, whether it's because of sadness or music. Mitch initially finds it awkward, but in this final moment of heightened emotion with Morrie, Mitch completes his transformation into a more fulfilled and openly emotional person.

Conclusion Quotes

The last class of my old professor's life took place once a week, in his home, by a window in his study where he could watch a small hibiscus plant shed its pink flowers. The class met on Tuesdays. No books were required. The subject was the meaning of life. It was taught from experience.
The teaching goes on.

Related Characters: Mitch Albom (speaker), Morrie Schwartz
Related Symbols: The Natural World and Morrie's Hibiscus
Page Number: 192
Explanation and Analysis:

This is the final passage of the book. The words here are the same as the opening lines of the text, save for the addition of the final line. This repetition serves several purposes. First, repetition in general is used throughout the text to emphasize and remind the reader of important points, such as Auden's "love each other or perish" and Morrie's mantra "when you learn how to die, you learn how to live." This ties back to Morrie's way of teaching. As Mitch notes on page 82, rather than make a student potentially feel dumb by asking them if they understand a point, Morrie prefers simply to repeat a point for emphasis. Here, although the idea is Morrie's, they're Mitch's words, which further reinforces the idea of teaching as a cycle. Mitch is borrowing Morrie's method and repeating himself, adding the final line as a nod to the nature of books and education as something living that continues after a class is over or a book has been finished. This cements Mitch's role as the new teacher, and allows the reader to also step into that role as they apply what they take away from reading the book to their own lives.

The Professor Quotes

Eva would kiss them good-night. Morrie waited on those kisses like a puppy waits on milk, and he felt, deep down, that he had a mother again.

Related Characters: Mitch Albom (speaker), Morrie Schwartz, David, Charlie, Eva
Page Number: 76
Explanation and Analysis:

Mitch is telling the story of Morrie's early childhood experiences. After the death of his mother, Morrie struggled emotionally. His father was cold and not one for showing affection, which Morrie craved. After Charlie married Eva, who is described as warm enough to make up for Charlie's cool moodiness, Morrie felt more emotionally whole and fulfilled.

Showing the profound effect of a mother figure in Morrie's early life sets Morrie up for the kind of family he wanted to build as an adult. When he did marry and have children of his own, Morrie made sure to emulate Eva rather than his father in his interactions with his sons. Morrie's sons never had to long for physical affection the way Morrie did as a child. In this way, it becomes apparent that love, and particularly physical affection, is a major driving force throughout Morrie's life.